Early goal for Cisse is enough for Magpies to scare off Canaries
Newcastle 1 Norwich 0
Sunday 18 March 2012
Papiss Cisse rekindled Newcastle's challenge for Europe as the
Magpies secured a first win in five Barclays Premier League games.
Cisse's 11th-minute strike, his third goal in four home outings, was enough to see off Norwich in a contest which remained in the balance until the final whistle.
However, on another day he might have left with the match ball after passing up a series of glorious chances to add to his tally.
That he did not was in part down to the resilience of Canaries goalkeeper John Ruddy, who produced a string of fine saves to keep the Magpies at bay and his side in with a fighting chance.
Opposite number Tim Krul also had to be at his best to deny Anthony Pilkington and Zak Whitbread in quick succession with the visitors threatening to snatch a point in front of a tense crowd of 47,833.
Newcastle ran out knowing a return of just two points from the last 12 on offer had to increase markedly if they were to maintain their challenge for European football, and with manager Alan Pardew having set them a target of five wins from their final 10 games to keep themselves in with a chance.
They were well on the way to securing the first of those victories when the half-time whistle sounded, but they might have been out of sight.
January signing Cisse produced a finish in keeping with the near-£10million fee the Magpies paid for him with 11 minutes gone when he got ahead of defender Whitehead to drill Jonas Gutierrez's cross instinctively past the helpless Ruddy.
But had he been as lethal with the other chances which came his way during a lively opening 45 minutes, the points could have been banked long before the end of the game.
There were less than two minutes on the clock when Yohan Cabaye played the Senegal international in for the first time, and his cheeky lob was only just plucked out of the air by the advancing Ruddy.
Kyle Naughton made a vital block to prevent Cisse's 39th-minute volley from ending up in the back of the net, but he should have doubled his tally two minutes later when he ran on to Gutierrez's sumptuous pass, but could not beat the keeper one on one.
In the meantime, Ruddy had pulled off a fine reaction save to claw away Demba Ba's effort as it threatened to creep inside his far post, and Elliott Bennett have survived appeals for a penalty after Danny Guthrie's cross hit his hand.
However, the Magpies, who started with Gutierrez at left-back and James Perch protecting the back four in the absence of Davide Santon and Cheick Tiote, did not have things all their own way.
The Canaries, as they have done for much of the first campaign back in the top flight to date, moved the ball confidently and created three chances of note of their own.
Jonny Howson only just failed to capitalise on Mike Williamson's 19th-minute error before Pilkington drilled a long-range effort into Krul's midriff.
But they could have gone in level had Andrew Surman hit the target rather than firing wildly across the face of goal in the final minute of the half.
Hatem Ben Arfa might have eased Newcastle further clear within seconds of the restart when he ran on to Whitbread's weak clearing header, but although he made good progress into the penalty area, he screwed his right-foot shot harmlessly wide.
Cisse tested Ruddy once again, this time from distance, after running on to Ba's 50th-minute lay-off, and the keeper needed two attempts to claim his shot.
But Norwich were in no mood to lie down and accept their fate, and the home side needed Krul to preserve their lead twice within seconds.
The Holland international first blocked Pilkington's shot at his near post and then tipped Whitbread's header over with the visitors pushing hard for an equaliser.
Ba fired wide from distance as Newcastle responded, but with frustration mounting on the terraces, Pardew replaced Ben Arfa with Santon, in the process freeing up Gutierrez, who had started at left-back, to return to his accustomed midfield role.
Newcastle managed to exert a measure of control as the clock ran down with the physical presence of substitute Shola Ameobi helping to relieve some of the pressure, although Steve Morison might have levelled at the death, but scuffed his shot straight at Krul under pressure from Fabricio Coloccini.
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